This summer — or winter if you’re in the southern hemisphere — Australia didn’t just break one record for high heat and low rainfall. 

It broke 260. 

Seventy-two locations across the country broke records for highest July temperature, and 193 locations recorded their lowest-ever June rainfall totals. In southeast Australia, Sydney experienced the hottest July day on record, and Canberra suffered through the driest June on record, to name just two examples.  

Now, researchers are making the argument that the country’s record-breaking winter was made 60 times more likely by climate change. 

A new report by the nonprofit Climate Council, “Hot and Dry: Australia's Weird Winter,” released Monday, found that Australia’s winter, which generally lasts from June to August, was, on average, 2 degrees celsius warmer than usual. This “exceptionally warm and dry” winter, researchers say, is almost certainly attributable to climate change.  

“Without any meaningful action to tackle climate change, we will continue to see many more hot winters, just like this, as global temperatures rise,” council member and ecologist Lesley Hughes, a coauthor of the study, said in a statement. “We must take meaningful action to strongly reduce Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels."

The study also warned that the hot and dry winter could portend a “dangerous bushfire season ahead” and negatively affect crop and livestock productivity. 

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Researchers said the areas most severely affected by changing global temperatures could be rural communities, where lower-income and aboriginal Australians are more likely to live

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“In addition to existing vulnerabilities and risks, rural communities have to face further environmental, social, health and economic issues that can be related to climate change,” the report stated. 

Read More: These Often Forgotten Islands of Australia Are Washing Away Due to Climate Change

The publisher of the report, called the Climate Council, was formed as an independent nonprofit in 2013 after then-president Tony Abbott abolished the federal Climate Commission

“Yes [climate change] is an issue, but the moral panic about this has been completely over the top,” Abbott said in 2016. 

Current president Malcolm Turnbull, who served as environment minister under former president John Howard, has been more outspoken about climate change, and in 2010 said that “all or almost all” of Australia’s energy should come from renewable sources. 

Read More: The Great Barrier Reef Is on Death’s Door, Thanks to Climate Change

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The government hopes to decrease emissions by 26 to 28%, compared to 2005 levels, by 2020, the BBC reports

Around 90% of Australians, according to a 2016 poll, believe that the federal government has a responsibility to take action on climate change. 

Perhaps the most recent report will incentivize the government to make this a priority sooner rather than later. 


Defend the Planet

Australia Just Broke More Than 260 Climate Records in One Season

By Phineas Rueckert